Persistent Prayer

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Episode Synopsis

Why do we lose heart and give up on praying? Are there any tools that can help us? Jani shares two acrostics that help her when she doesn’t know how to pray.

Audio Transcript

Jani Ortlund: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to our series on discipleship. We’re so glad you’re listening in. We’ve heard from a lot of you about how helpful this has been and we just thank the Lord for that, oh my. All the praise goes to him.

Note for Leaders

Now leaders, I want to ask you to print off a copy of the ACTS acrostic you’ll find on our website at herestoresmysoul.org. Print off a copy of that for each member of your group, you’re going to need it during your lesson today.

Also bring any of your own prayer aids to show your group.

One final note to you leaders, if you have any more members of the group who have not had a chance to share their life story yet, you fit them into your lessons however you need to. I don’t include them in the lesson today.

Teaching Time: Persistent Prayer

Now, today, we’re going to start with teaching. And I would ask you leaders to begin by passing around the handout that’s entitled ACTS. Every one of your members is going to need one as you pray together today because we’re continuing our study on prayer. And this handout can be really a helpful tool when you need inspiration or help in prayer. So you’ll want to have that nearby.

God loves to keep us connected to himself, doesn’t he? You see God wants intimacy with his children and one of the chief ways to enjoy that intimacy is through prayer. Prayer is different from everything else in our lives. Prayer is a conscious, humble, verbal dependence on God. It’s somewhat of a mystery. We are talking with the God of the universe, after all, and that can be scary and intimidating.

But remember, it’s just talking. Try to imagine any relationship developing without words. The way to develop intimacy with someone is to talk with them, exchange words. If I wanted to get to know one of you better, I would invite you over and we would spend time talking together. I’d ask you questions, you’d ask me questions. You are getting to know each other better in your groups as you meet week to week through your words.

If you know how to form any words at all, you can pray. And if you can’t think of any words, can you cry or sigh or even just groan? If you can cry, or even just groan, then you can pray. Because prayer is just talking to God, crying out to him, groaning to him.

To “Call” on the Lord

Psalm 145:18 says this,

“The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.”

Psalm 145:18

To call on God is like a visit, like coming to my house for a cup of tea, not playing phone tag and just leaving a message. Let me illustrate it this way. When we lived in Scotland, very soon after we moved there. A neighbor wanted to meet me and we saw each other out front. And she said, “Oh, could I call you tomorrow?” And I said, “Sure, I would like that.” I thought she meant could I call you on the phone. But she meant could I call on you and she came to my door and knocked and I wasn’t there. And she wondered what had happened. But to her “to call on someone” was a face to face visit. Not a phone call. Face to face, not playing phone tag. The Bible tells us that the Lord is near toall who call on, who visit with, him.

Because prayer is a relationship, not a regimen.

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you”

James 4:8

In Isaiah 62, leaders have your members turn there in their Bibles, Isaiah chapter 62. We’re going to look at a few verses, just two actually, verses six and seven. Listen as I read them.

“On your walls, oh Jerusalem, I have set watchmen. All the day and all the night they shall never be silent. You who put the Lord in remembrance, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth.”

Isaiah 62:6-7

Did you see that? Prayer is divinely appointed. God creates prophetic intercessors. “On your walls, oh Jerusalem. I have set watchmen.” That’s verse six. This Jerusalem is the center of spiritual life and activity. On the walls of all the spiritual activity around us God sets watchmen, prophetic guardians, like sentries on a city wall, praying and watching. You and I, if we know Jesus as our Lord, are watchmen on the walls of this spiritual Jerusalem of our generation.

Watchmen are sentries, like a security system. Sometimes we are aware of it sometimes not. But there is a great spiritual conflict being waged between ultimate good, God Himself, and all those who hate him and his ways. We who know God, are warriors, and we need a watchman mentality. Who is standing guard over your family? Who is the watchman on the wall of your home, your school, your neighborhood, your church? Look, there at verse six again,

“All the day, and all the night, they shall never be silent.” Verse six.

Isaiah 62:6

This is not a prayer meeting, but a mentality. I should always be ready to pray, living in an attitude of continual open communion with God. Take no rest. It says in verses six and seven, “and give him no rest, take no rest and give him no rest.” There’s a sense of urgency here of pressing in, almost a rudeness.

Acrostic #1: “PUSH”-Y Prayers

You see, God has a high tolerance level when we turn to him. I wonder if my prayers are too genteel, too hesitant, too polite. We can never ask too much, or too often. Learn to take risks in your prayers. There is a persistent rudeness, a slightly stubborn kind of praying, a righteous impedance that God hears.

Think of Luke 18:1-8, that parable where the the judge and the persistent widow are meeting and the judge says in verse five of Luke 18,

“Yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice.”

Luke 18:5

You see here it was her persistence that won the judge’s heart over and the judge even called it “bothering me” because this widow keeps bothering him. You can bother God. That’s okay. I call these kinds of prayers “prayers that push” and I use the word “push” to symbolize Pray Until Something Happens. P-U-S-H. Pushy prayers. Pray Until Something Happens. Take your stand on the walls of your own personal Jerusalem and pray, pray strong, persistent prayers. Pray pushy prayers. Pray until God has established his kingdom on earth forever.

How To Pray

Now, in this time of teaching, let’s answer the question, how to pray. You know, I think it can be easy to begin a pattern of prayer. But it’s hard for me to sustain it. Why do you think that is so? Why is it hard? Why do I lose heart and give up?

Well, sometimes I’m just overwhelmed with the details of my life. My schedule is too full to set aside time for prayer with purposeful intent. Sometimes I tell myself, I’m too busy today, I’ve got so much to do. I don’t have time for this spiritual labor. I’ll get to it later. But then later never comes. Another reason that I sometimes lose heart and give up is that I sometimes don’t see it working. Has God really heard me? Does he really care about my little life? The Psalmist felt this way in Psalm 13:1 where he says,

“How long Oh, Lord, will you forget me forever? How long would you hide your face from me?”

Psalm 13:1

And sometimes, I just don’t know how to do it. Prayer aids, such as books, or daily prayer emails can help. Again, let me say how helpful I have found Beth Moore’s Praying God’s Word, oh, what a wonderful resource. A prayer journal or notebook, as we discussed last week can also be very helpful.

Acrostic #2: “ACTS”

Free Download: “The ACTS Acrostic”

The “ACTS” Acrostic can be a helpful tool for any Christian when they pray. The principles of Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication can help us regain perspective and walk in forgiveness and faith each day of our lives.

Now, one final tool I want to mention in our our teaching time today is another popular acrostic. The acrostic is ACTS. Look at your handout. You see, prayer is really just two things, talking to God about him and talking to God about me and others. This acrostic helps me to engage in both. Each of the letters in the word ACTS stands for a kind of prayer.

A = Adoration

The A stands for adoration. In this kind of prayer, you tell God why you love and cherish him. Why do you prize and admire him? You can use passages like Colossians 1:15-20 and Revelation 4 and 5 to help you bring words of adoration to him. Hopefully you’ll read these passages in a little bit together to worship your father together.

C = Confession

And then confession, the C in ACTS stands for confession, confess your faith. Tell him what you believe. You can read aloud 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. The Lord is honored and worshiped when we confess to him what we believe. And then confess your sins. In your group, read aloud Psalm 38:18 and Psalm 32:1-5. Don’t let your sin stockpile up. Don’t play with them. Don’t entertain them in your heart. When the Lord brings our sins to mind, let’s be women who are quick to confess them, to repent and ask him to help us turn away from them.

T = Thanksgiving

So we have adoration, confession. I’m going through this quickly now. But you can turn off the podcast as you want or at the end and practice this together. Adoration, confession and thanksgiving. Learn to say thank you to your father. Read Psalm 100:4 and Psalm 107:8-9. Let’s be women who are quick to thank the Lord. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 and discuss what is the word “this” pointing to in these verses. For this is the will of God. Oh, let’s learn to say thank you to God.

S = Supplication

And then finally, supplication. This is where we talk to God about our needs and the needs of others. I mean, actually, this is the kind of prayer I’m best in because I’m so needy, I’m sorry to admit that but it’s true. Now, I want you to ask the members of your group, as you go through this page, to read aloud the following verses that you see listed there. Psalm 107:6, Psalm 107:13, Psalm 107:19-20, Psalm 28:1-2.

When we pray, we can ask largely. Read 1 Chronicles 14:10. We can pray for the lost world. We can pray for authorities. Read 1 Timothy 2:1-4. We can pray with intensity. The Lord also kindly reminds us it’s proper and right to pray for our own needs as well. Read Matthew 6:11. Note how it says, “Give us our daily bread.” The Lord taught us to pray that way. He taught us to pray prayers of supplication.

One of the Boldest Prayers in the Bible

I think the most bold and famous intercessory prayer ever recorded in the Bible is found in Genesis 18:23-33. Turn there and read it together in your group. Genesis 18:23-33, just turn off the podcast and read it. Abraham has family in Sodom. Family, he has led out of Ur and cared for and sacrificed for and even rescued at cost to himself. When the Lord reveals to Abraham his plan to judge Sodom and Gomorrah for their sin in Genesis 18. Just above the verses, you’ve just read, Genesis 18:16-21, Abraham struggles with the righteous judgment of God, and his own distress for the city where his family lives.

He prays six times, begging God to spare the cities. Abraham, I think, symbolizes God’s redeemed people on earth. We, as descendants of Abraham, are called to be a blessing to the world. And God calls us to pray for our cities and our families in them. Jeremiah 29:7 says,

“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf. For in its welfare, you will find your welfare.”

Jeremiah 29:7

You see, your prayers are significant to God, to your city, to your family there. Proverbs 11:11 puts it this way,

“By the blessing of the upright, a city is exalted.”

Proverbs 11:11

God has placed you, in your family and in your city, with Kingdom-advancing, strategic significance. Put yourself in that space between God and your child, God and your family, God and your school, God and your church, God and your city, God and your country and pray. In Genesis 18, Abraham has a humble boldness with God. He is forthright but he’s not arrogant. Abraham is reverent as he prays but he presses in pushing hard against God, wrestling with him.

What good did Abraham’s intercession do? Well, you can look it up in Genesis 19:29. God saved Lot. You see prayers in the ways of God saves people. Lamentations 2:19 puts it this way,

“Arise, cry out in the night at the beginning of the night watches, pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord. Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children who faint for hunger at the head of every street.”

Lamentations 2:19

No condition is so low that God will not hear it. We’re told in Lamentations 2 to “pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord”. Let your heart run before your God. Lift your hands to him your empty hands that can do nothing but ask. Lift them for the lives of your children, your grandchildren, your nieces and nephews, your students. Here in Lamentations, the children needed real bread. That might not necessarily be the case for you. Though we may know those who are in poverty. But the picture here is of children picking through the garbage heaps to satisfy themselves. The children of our day don’t have physical hunger as much as spiritual hunger.

“Go to God for your children. Keep going to him. intercede for them. Let us pray without ceasing.”

1 Thessalonians 5:17

Now leader, this is the end of our teaching time. It’s been a little bit longer tonight and if you want to take a break, go ahead and take your break now.

Prayer & Worship

We’re going to come back together again now and we’re going to spend some time in prayer and worship. Our worship time is going to be using the ACTS prayer sheet that you have. Your leader will lead you through this. You’ll spend a few minutes working through this prayer together. You’ll start with adoration and then transition into confession and thanksgiving and supplication. Now each member jump in as you feel comfortable. So leader, ask someone to begin in the area of adoring God by reading Colossians 1:15-20 aloud. From there spend a few minutes worshiping the Lord and listing out his attributes. as time permits, lead the group into prayers of confession, thanksgiving and finally supplication.

Accountability

Now let’s go into our time of accountability together, check in on each other’s quiet times. How is everyone doing? Is anyone having a hard time getting four in? Pick two members to share something from their quiet times this week. Then, take 10 minutes to share insights from your reading of Brother Lawrence or whatever book your group chose.

Next Week’s Assignment

Finally, here’s your assignment. Four quiet times for this coming week with two written out. Your book reading assignment. Now leader, you’re going to have to decide what that is. In my group. If we’re reading through Brother Lawrence by now we’re reading through part three. And then I want you to draw names in your group to assign each woman a prayer partner. Encourage the ladies to make an effort to connect with each other at least once during the week. And then, finally, your fourth assignment is write out your prayer one day.

Share With Your Group

Finally together in your group you want to close by sharing. End the group by sharing your hearts and other personal prayer requests that haven’t been mentioned yet. God bless you as you go through this discipleship curriculum. God bless you as you share your hearts with one another going deeper with him and with each other. May He restore all of our souls.

Thank You

Thank you for joining us today. This podcast is generously funded through Renewal Ministries. If you would like to discover more about Jani and Ray’s ministry or make a donation, visit their website at renewalministries.com. If you have a question for Jani or would like to learn more about this podcast, please visit our website at herestoresmysoul.org.

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He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund seeks to encourage women with God’s renewing power for their busy lives. Episodes include relevant biblical teaching, stimulating gospel conversations with other Christians, and “Ask Jani” sessions where we talk about what’s on our listeners’ hearts.

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